The 5 Benefits of Lifelong Learning
In 2016, The Pew Research Center found that 74% of American adults consider themselves “lifelong learners,” meaning they seek out learning activities in either their personal or professional lives (http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/03/22/lifelong-learning-and-technology/). These learning activities take many forms, from online seminars and courses through hands-on workshops and classes, from TED talks to self-study.
74% of American adults consider themselves “lifelong learners”
There are many reasons people dedicate their time to increasing their knowledge, both personal and professional, and learning beyond the traditional school years has countless benefits. For the learner focused on their professional life, high among these benefits are:
- Maintaining and improving skills
Most professionals who dedicate time to continued learning do so to maintain and improve the skills on which their jobs depend. 87% of those interviewed by Pew cited this as the reason for their continued focus on learning.
- Licensing and certification
57% of professionals who engaged in learning activities in the last year said they did so to get a license or certification. In many areas, achieving and maintaining various licenses and certifications is essential to keeping jobs and growing in your career.
- Raises and promotions
39% of professional learners said they continue their educations to work toward raises and promotions in their current jobs.
- Job mobility
Not every job is the right job. Some professional leaners engage in further training to make themselves better candidates for new positions. 21% of those who engaged in learning in the last year gave this reason.
- Job retention
12% of professionals who engaged in continued learning did it as insurance, wanting to keep their skills marketable for possible downsizing.
Research on the job market indicates that professionals who invest in lifelong learning are on the right track. In 2017, The Economist called lifelong learning an “economic imperative,” writing:
“A college degree at the start of a working career does not answer the need for the continuous acquisition of new skills, especially as career spans are lengthening. Vocational training is good at giving people job-specific skills, but those, too, will need to be updated over and over again during a career lasting decades.” (https://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21714169-technological-change-demands-stronger-and-more-continuous-connections-between-education)
The Harvard Business review agrees, mentioning not only the clear economic benefits of being a lifelong learner, but also the intangible benefits. John Coleman writes:
“Think of the best conversationalist you know. Do they ask good questions? Are they well-informed? Now picture the colleague you most respect for their professional acumen. Do they seem literate, open-minded, and intellectually vibrant? Perhaps your experiences will differ, but if you’re like me, I suspect those you admire most, both personally and professionally, are those who seem most dedicated to learning and growth.” (https://hbr.org/2017/02/lifelong-learning-is-good-for-your-health-your-wallet-and-your-social-life)
It is not difficult to explain why the engaged, curious employee Coleman describes will move more quickly up the ladder than their less learning-focus colleague.
Just as committing time and effort to continued learning is a smart investment for employees, making learning available and accessible is a wise move for employers. Leading companies like Facebook and Google have taken the lead in emphasizing lifelong learning for their employees, but smaller companies can follow their example. Robert Half, the world’s largest specialized staffing firm, calls company investment in employee professional development “a win for the entire team.” It is a tool for both employee retention and recruitment, as well as booster of job satisfaction (https://www.roberthalf.com/blog/management-tips/professional-development-training-a-win-for-the-entire-team).
For both employers and employees, a focus on lifelong learning requires commitment and resources—time, energy, and money. Technological advances allow for unprecedented flexibility in providing and accessing learning opportunities, as well as planning and managing your individual learning trajectory. It is now easier than ever to make the commitment to lifelong learning and to realize its many benefits.